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Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for your system

Best British speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best British speakers you can buy in 2020.

Whether you're on a tight budget or looking to drop some serious coin, you'll find that British hi-fi brands offer some of the finest speakers money can buy. And no, we're not biased.

Whatever type of speaker you want, Britain's best audio brands bring considerable engineering expertise to the audio party. There are plenty of well-established British speaker brands to choose from, such as Bowers & Wilkins and KEF, plus relative newcomers such as Fyne Audio based in Scotland.

Now, not all British speakers are made from start to finish in the UK. But at the very least, they're designed or assembled in UK by British firms, many of which have an illustrious British heritage. 

So whether you want to buy British or simply check out what Great Britain has to offer in terms of hi-fi, read on to discover our pick of the best British speakers...

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: B&W)

1. B&W 606

A big, lively sound for an affordable price.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88 dB/w/m | Driver: Continuum 16.5cm mid/bass, 25mm tweeter | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 120W | Speaker terminals: bi-wire | Dimensions: 34.5 x 19 x 34cm (HXWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Smart, stylish design
Brilliantly balanced sound
Dynamic and detailed

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing of note

These spectacular B&W stereo speakers are blessed with rich dynamics and a full sound that won't fail to impress. Capable of handling complex rhythms with ease, the nimble charmers deliver a superb level of detail that will breathe new life into well-trodden playlists. If want a pair of compact, mid-size, class-leaders that offer stunning British engineering and good value for money, you've just found them.

Read the full review: B&W 606

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: ACM)

2. ATC SCM19

Transparent, musical performers.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 85 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Mid/bass driver: ATC 15cm SL | Tweeter: 25mm Neodymium soft dome | Max power handling: 300W | Dimensions: 43.8 x 26.5 x 30cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Honest and insightful sound
Impressive dynamics
Crisp rhythmic drive
Rock-solid build
Impressive drive-unit engineering

Reasons to Avoid

Metal grilles look less than classy

Pink Floyd and Supertramp were early customers of ATC, and the Gloucestershire-based firm continues to impress with its superb, hand-built loudspeakers. The SCM19s offer spellbinding levels of detail and deliver a nuanced performance that's true to the original recording without sounding clinical. In short, these beautifully assembled, traditional-looking speakers are a terrific buy – especially if you value musicality above all else. 

Read the full review: ATC SCM19

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: KEF)

3. KEF R3

Superb standmounters that raise the sonic bar.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 87 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 180W | Biwire: Yes | Dimensions: 42 x 20 x 34cm (HXWXD)

Reasons to Buy

Exceptional insight and resolution
Balanced and entertaining sound
Excellent build and finish

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing at this price

KEF has been turning out excellent loudspeakers since 1961 and these awesome all-rounders are proof that the Kent-based firm is still on the money. Insightful, musical and bassy, the R3s deliver a good chunk of the performance of the pricier KEF Reference 1 speakers, but at a fraction of the cost. Blessed with scale and authority they're expertly balanced and offer a satisfyingly-natural tone. Give them a high quality feed and the R3s will compete with most standmounters below the two grand mark. A great British buy.

Read the full review: KEF R3

Best British speakers 2020: the best British hi-fi

(Image credit: Fyne Audio)

5. Fyne Audio F302

Stunning floorstanders from the young audio upstarts.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 90dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Type: Two-way, rear ported | Max power handling: 120W | Mid/bass driver: 15cm | Tweeter: 25mm | Dimensions: 93 x 19 x 27cm (HXWXD)

Reasons to Buy

Full-bodied, entertaining sound
Fantastic timing and dynamic range
Plenty of low-end presence

Reasons to Avoid

Need some care in system-matching

Fyne Audio, based in Scotland, was founded by a ‘supergroup’ of industry veterans including a clutch of ex-Tannoy employees. It might be a relatively new company but judging by the quality of its loudspeakers, it has a bright future. 

Finding a pair of floorstanders at this price that offer a level of dynamism comparable to a pair of standmounters isn't easy, but the full-bodied F302s do so effortlessly. Sound is luscious and warm with a keen sense of timing. While lesser floorstanders sometimes neglect dynamic range in favour of a big, bassy soundstage, that’s not the case here. A sterling speaker at an affordable price point.

Read the full review: Fyne Audio F302

Best speakers 2020: budget to premium stereo speakers

(Image credit: Wharfedale)

6. Wharfedale Evo 4.4

Wharfedale shows it can mix with the best premium speakers

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 90 dB/w/m | Driver: 3-way bass reflex, AMT tweeter, Kevlar bass drivers | Impedance: 4ohms | Max power handling: 200W | Speaker terminals: single | Dimensions: 105.9 x 25.7 x 35.6cm (hwd)

Reasons to Buy

Natural, easy-going presentation
Excitement and rhythmic drive
Fine build and finish

Reasons to Avoid

Need a large room to shine

These are the biggest and priciest offerings in the Wharfedale's Evo range and are packed full of so much technology that we had to double-check the price. The Air Motion Transformer tweeter is normally reserved for much more expensive speakers, while the dome midrange and twin Kevlar bass drivers also set these floorstanders apart from the crowd.

It won’t come as a surprise that these relatively big speakers produce a large-scale sound with plenty of authority that's capable of going nice and loud. But they also deliver transparency and subtlety, helping to ensure a natural, easy-going presentation.

There are three finish options – black, white and walnut. Build quality is good for the price, and the elegant curves of the cabinet add a touch of class. Some clever bracing and damping minimise resonance.

Rivals such as the excellent Fyne Audio F501s might sound a little more exciting, but over a longer listen the Evo 4.4’s easier-going presentation is more natural and convincing. A superb pair of premium floorstanders that get better with every listen. 

Read the full review: Wharfedale Evo 4.4

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: Mission )

7. Mission QX-2

Fun, energetic and outstanding value for money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 120W | Mid/bass driver: 15cm pulp/acrylic fibre | Tweeter: 38mm ring radiator | Speaker terminals: Single | Dimensions: 32 x 22 x 31cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Energetic and insightful sound
Good rhythmic drive
Fine build and finish

Reasons to Avoid

Tough competition

Mission is now owned by China's IAG group, but top-class British audio engineering remains critical to its design and production process. The QX-2s are sensational speakers that perform brilliantly across the board and look pretty smart, too. Fun, energetic and detailed, they're some of the best budget standmounters we've seen in recent times. A fine budget buy indeed. 

Read the full review: Mission QX-2

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: Fyne Audio)

8. Fyne Audio F501

Accomplished, beautifully-crafted floorstanders.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Three-way design | Sensitivity: 90 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Mid/bass driver: 15cm IsoFlare | Tweeter: 25mm Titanium dome | Max power handling: 75W | Dimensions: 98 x 20 x 32cm

Reasons to Buy

Well made and finished
Some interesting technical aspects
Revealing and engaging sound

Reasons to Avoid

Require judicious system-matching
Sound best at reasonable volume

Another excellent pair of speakers from Fyne Audio. The mid-range F501 floorstanders impress with sweet timing, a well-defined sound stage and lavish levels of detail. Build quality is superb, which adds to the appeal, and cabinets come in a choice of real oak veneer or piano black gloss finishes. If you want to splash out on a pair of speakers that will bring a sense of scale and clarity to your favourite recordings, these are just the ticket. 

Read the full review: Fyne Audio F501

best speakers

(Image credit: B&W)

9. B&W 805 D3

Hugely capable bookshelf speakers with class-leading resolution and clarity

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Biwire: Yes | Dimensions: 42 x 24 x 35cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Excellent resolution
Impressive stereo imaging
Strong dynamics
Build and finish

Reasons to Avoid

Sound best at higher volume levels

Such has been the consistency of B&W's design approach that it’s easy to dismiss recent generations of the 800 series as just more of the same. The general look has hardly changed over the last decade or so, and those curved cabinets have gone from looking futuristic to almost classical, though they still look attractive.

This B&W 805 D3, which we reviewed back in 2017, hardly goes out of its way to dispel the ‘more of the same’ notion, but start delving and you’ll find B&W’s engineers have left little unturned in their bid to improve performance.

Every aspect of the Diamond dome tweeter has been redesigned, while this was the first B&W speaker to move from Kevlar to Continuum material for the mid/bass driver. There's now a front-facing port and of course the design looks as elegant as ever. 

Sonically, it’s a superbly focused image, nicely layered and stable. These B&Ws sound open and dynamic, and while best when really pushed they can do subtle and finesse, too. In fact, levels of low-level detail are class-leading. Though the price of the 805s has crept up over the years, this latest generation is without doubt the most capable we’ve heard.

Read the full B&W 805 D3 review

Best speakers 2020: budget to premium stereo speakers

(Image credit: Wilson Benesch)

10. Wilson Benesch Precision P1.0

Exceptional speakers that set the benchmark at this price

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88.5 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 200W | Biwire: Yes | Dimensions: 98.5 x 19 x 34 (HXWXD)

Reasons to Buy

Impressive detail resolution
Expressive dynamics
Engineering content
Build quality

Reasons to Avoid

Appearance splits opinion

Entry-level is a relative term. In Wilson Benesch’s world, it refers to the new Precision range, which includes these not-remotely-cheap P1.0 speakers. Happily, there's plenty of clever engineering inside to justify the high price. 

While most speakers are made from MDF, these cabinets are a hybrid construction of aluminium and birch plywood. The drive units are no less exotic. The mid/bass driver uses an Isotactic Polypropylene cone driven by a powerful, heavily optimised Neodymium motor system, while the  25mm soft dome Leonardo tweeter borrows its construction from the much pricier Geometry series, and has a 3D-printed, elaborately-shaped faceplate to reduce distortion. 

The looks aren't to everyone's tastes, but there's no debate when it comes to performance. Provided you feed them a signal of appropriate quality, and partner them realistically, they won’t fail to impress. These are insightful and composed performers that work well across a wide range of musical genres.

Top it off with a balanced, integrated and dynamic sound, and you have a pair of speakers that set sky-high standards for the price.

Read the full review: Wilson Benesch Precision P1.0

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: AE)

11. Acoustic Energy AE1 Active

Active speakers capable of outperforming some separate systems.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 2 x 50W | Dimensions: 30 x 18.5 x 25cm (HxWxD) | Inputs: RCA & balanced XLR

Reasons to Buy

Clear, balanced and detailed
Rhythmically exciting
Impressive dynamic range

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing of note

The AE1 Actives combine an amplifier with passive speakers to superb effect – and at a very reasonable price too. They're small enough that they won't dominate your living room but lively enough to add a little swagger to the mid-range. With a healthy combination of punch and drive, you'll find that these active speakers revel in complex polyphonic rhythms.  Even traditionalists who prefer hi-fi separates should track down a pair and give them a chance to shine.  

Read the full review: Acoustic Energy AE1 Active

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

12. Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo

Sophisticated wireless wonders with good multi-room capability.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 2x 125W per unit | Features: Bluetooth aptX HD, wi-fi, multi-room, Spotify Connect, Apple Airplay 2 | Connections: USB, Ethernet | Dimensions: HxWxD (cm): 39.5 x 19.7 x 30.5

Reasons to Buy

Excellent multi-room features
Tight, authoritative bass
Snappy timing
Transparent performance 

Reasons to Avoid

No fully featured app

Looking for a pair of wireless standmounders? The Formation Duos aren't cheap but they offer a level of detail and precision that makes you want to listen to your favourite recordings on repeat. 

Aside from the power cable, the speakers are completely wireless, active (and multi-room) speakers and operate their own mesh network to ensure a rock-solid connection.  We'd prefer a single app to handle all the multi-room functions, but excellent clarity and performance more than make up for that minor gripe. A stunning way to go wireless, and a fine way to explore the Formation family.

Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: KEF)

13. KEF LS50 Wireless

Pedigree hi-fi meets cutting-edge streaming tech.

SPECIFICATIONS

Driver: 13cm Uni-Q mid/bass driver with 25mm aluminium dome tweeter | Features: Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, Hi-res audio support | Dimensions: 30 x 20 x 30.8 cm (H x W x D)

Reasons to Buy

Great clarity
Impressive bass and dynamics
Brilliant build quality

Reasons to Avoid

Could be more usable

KEF (originally Kent Engineering & Foundry) was founded by the late, great electrical engineer Raymond Cooke OBE. It's kept pace with the digital age and now offers some outstanding all-in-one streaming systems including the LS50 Wireless active speakers, which impress with their masterful sound quality and sleek styling. 

The price tag may seem a little hefty, but remember that these speakers contain everything from a Bluetooth module and a 24-bit/192kHz DAC, to a preamp and four power amplifiers with a total output of 460W. A terrific interpretation of the 'hi-fi of the future'.

Read the full review: KEF LS50 Wireless

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: Q Acoustics)

14. Q Acoustics 3020i

Budget bookshelf speakers with plenty of warmth and character.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88 dB/w/m | Impedance: 6ohms | Bass driver: 12.5cm | Mid: 22mm | Max power handling: 75W | Dimensions: 27.8 x 17 x 28.2cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Rich, warm sound
Full bass 
Clear, precise treble
Sweeping dynamics

Reasons to Avoid

Depth of cabinet impractical for some

Q Acoustics is a relatively young British brand so it doesn't come with any misty-eyed nostalgia. Established in 2006, the firm's mission is to offer outstanding audio performance at a decent price. The affordable 3020is fulfil that brief with a warm, rich and insightful sound plus thumping bass that comes through thick and fast. One thing worth noting: the cabinets are 28cm deep so if you're planning to position the speakers on stands, be sure that the mounts aren't too shallow.  

Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3020i

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: ProAc)

15. ProAc Response DT8

Accomplished, agile speakers that offer great value for money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 90 dB/w/m | Impedance: 4ohms | Bass/mid driver: 2 x 16.5cm | Tweeter: ProAc 25mm silk dome | Max power handling: 180W | Dimensions: 97.8 x 19.3 x 22.9cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Agile, articulate sound
Expressive dynamics
Taut and punchy bass
Solid build quality

Reasons to Avoid

Slightly over-badged

British hi-fi loudspeaker brand ProAc has built up a reputation that's as solid as its hand-crafted products. The DT8s are some of the best-sounding floorstanders we've heard at this price point, delivering large-scale sound with delicate dynamic swings and plenty of midrange subtlety. The prominent company logos plastered across the front of the speakers may not be to everyone's taste, but the DT8s deliver class-leading performance for the money.

Read the full review: ProAc DT8

(Image credit: Wharfedale)

16. Wharfedale Linton

The best of old hi-fi combined with the best of the new

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 90dB | Impedance: 6ohms | Biwirable: No | Weight: 18.4kg (each) | Dimensions: 56.5 x 30 x 33cm (HWD)

Reasons to Buy

Effortless bass production
Detailed, open soundstage
Authentic good looks

Reasons to Avoid

Divisive looks

Wharfedale is undoubtedly a classic British hi-fi brand. But while we often say that good sound doesn’t get old, it does still date. Listen to hi-fi equipment from yesteryear and you might notice a different audio presentation more suited to the music from that era. 

In the case of the original Wharfedale Linton speakers, that era was between 1965 and the late 1970s – a time of big trousers, big music and big speakers. If you fancy a speaker that's built using modern methods and materials, but that takes this old-school approach to styling and sound, then you might well want the new version of the Linton. 

These speakers do an impressive job of capturing something of an older, fuller, more easy and open style of hi-fi sound without forgetting to make the music exciting. That excitement may not come thundering out of its cones, but you don’t need whisky and elbow patches to enjoy it either. With effortless weight, spot-on stereo imaging and layer upon layer of marvellous detail, you could listen to these speakers for days and still not get tired. 

Read the full review: Wharfedale Linton

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: Spendor)

17. Spendor A4

Unfussy, entertaining, beautifully-built floorstanders.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 86 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Bass/mid driver: 18cm | Tweeter: 22mm | Max power handling: 150W | Dimensions: 86.1 x 16.5 x 28.4cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Agile, articulate, expressive sound
Detail resolution
Excellent build and finish
Compact size

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing of note

Spendor designs, engineers and builds all its loudspeakers in the UK. These compact, premium floorstanders combine the firm's flair for craftsmanship with a fun, expressive sound that belies the rather traditional cabinetry. They remain clean, articulate and balanced even when faced with demanding rhythms – no mean feat.  

While some of Spendor's smaller speakers sound a little an analytical to our ear, the A4s are a far more entertaining proposition. And at just 80cm high, they won't dominate your living space.

Read the full review: Spendor A4

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: Quad)

18. Quad S-1

Enchanting bookshelf speakers that really sing.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 84 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Bass/mid driver: 10cm woven Kevlar cone | Treble driver: 12 x 45mm True Ribbon | Max power handling: 150W | Dimensions: 28.5 x 15.6 x 24cm (HxWxD)

If you have a smaller-sized room that begs for an intimate performance, the Quad S-1s are the perfect choice. The exquisite woodwork is matched by exquisite vocal handling, which displays remarkable clarity, insight and emotion. A clear midrange is the icing on this compact audio cake. 

While it's fair to say that the S-1s don't quite have the authority to compete with larger rivals, their enchanting dynamics more than make up for the slight lack of scale. A fantastic offering from a great British firm that has been producing audio equipment since 1953.    

Read the full review: Quad S-1

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: PMC)

19. PMC Twenty5.23

Classy floorstanders from the Emmy award-winning British outfit.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 86.5 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Bass/mid driver: PMC 14cm long-throw g-weave cone with cast alloy chasis | Tweeter: PMC 27mm Sonoflex soft fabric dome | Dimensions: 90.7 x 16.2 x 33cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Agile, detailed and articulate
Lovely midrange
Fine dynamics and clarity
Surprising bass and authority for size
Build and finish

Reasons to Avoid

Some may find some of the cosmetic detailing a bit showy

Since its inception in 1991, PMC has grown from humble beginnings into one of the best in the domestic and studio speaker business. For proof, look no further than these classy, slimline floorstanders. They don't look all that different from the cheaper Twenty model but offer a substantial upgrade in terms of resolution, dynamics and punch. If you have a small or medium-sized room, you'll find that the soundstage extends well beyond the speakers themselves. Is the metal detailing a little too showy? Perhaps, but these are still a great buy.  

Read the full review: PMC Twenty5.23

Best British speakers 2020: great British speakers for every system

(Image credit: Ruark)

20. Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2

Retro-looking desktop speakers with hi-fi performance.

SPECIFICATIONS

aptX Bluetooth: Yes | Inputs: Optical, line in | Output: Subwoofer | Dimensions: 17 × 13 × 13.5cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Stunningly musical sound
Subtle dynamics
Stylish, compact design

Reasons to Avoid

No USB input

This family-owned British brand is best known for its luxury DAB radios but also makes fantastic wireless desktop speakers. Insightful, musical and rich in dynamics, the MR1 Mk2s sound like a ‘proper’ hi-fi. In addition to Bluetooth connectivity for streaming you get an optical input capable of supporting hi-res audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, plus an optional battery pack for portability. If you’re pushed for space these desktop speakers are a perfect balance of impressive performance and dinky dimensions.

Read the full review: Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2

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  • Nintendologist
    Where was number 4?

    And what happened to Monitor Audio? So strong in the past few years with multiple Awards/5 star reviews and not featured here once..?
    Reply